Over the years, the character of teen sleuth Nancy Drew has been portrayed on screens both large and small by the likes of Bonita Granville, Maggie Lawson, and Emma Roberts. And what do these three actresses have in common? They all bear a close resemblance to the young white girl we're used to seeing on the cover of the novels created by publisher Edward Stratemeyer. Last month, CBS announced that they would be bucking that trend for their upcoming TV series Drew , both aging up the character and casting her as non-white. So who landed the coveted role of the world's most famous female detective? The mystery has finally been solved: Sarah Shahi has just been cast as Nancy Drew.
True to CBS' updated vision of the character, the 36-year-old actress was born in Texas with mixed Iranian and Spanish heritage. To prepare herself for a career in performance, Shahi worked as a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader during the 1999-2000 season before moving to Hollywood to pursue acting full-time. Although she's had some small roles in commercially successful films like Legally Blonde 2: Red, White And Blonde and Rush Hour 3, Shahi really found her niche on the small screen — no surprise, considering that TV has recently been a haven for minority actors in the face of the film industry's struggles with #OscarsSoWhite.
Over the course of her 16-year career, Shahi has guest starred in a wide variety of shows, including Dawson's Creek, ER, Supernatural, The Sopranos, and Ray Donovan. But here are the five roles that you'll most likely recognize the new Nancy Drew from:
Shahi recurred throughout Season 1 of J.J. Abrams' spy drama as Jenny, the young newspaper staffer who had an affair with Bradley Cooper's Will Tippin. Sadly, Will dumped her after a traumatic kidnapping incident, and Jenny was never heard from again.
2. The L Word
Shahi joined Showtime's cult-favorite LGBT drama as a main cast member during the series' second season, where she played sexy hispanic disc jockey Carmen de la Pica Morales. (A controversial casting decision, to be sure.) Throughout her time on the show, Carmen would be engaged in relationships with both Mia Kirshner's Jenny and Katherine Moennig's Shane. However, when Shane left Carmen at the altar during the Season 3 finale, Shahi was never seen on the show again.
This NBC procedural starred a pre-Homeland Damian Lewis as a cop released from prison after serving 12 years of a life sentence for a triple-homicide he didn't commit. Back at work, he's partnered with Shahi's Detective Dani Reese, who's struggling with drug addiction after serving undercover in narcotics. (A real light-hearted show.) Thankfully, this time Shahi didn't vanish off the show into thin air; she made it as a series regular through the entire run of the show… which was admittedly only two seasons before NBC unceremoniously cancelled it.
4. Fairly Legal
Back before USA became known as the home of Mr. Robot and its brooding hacker protagonist, it was still very much in its heyday as the network of bright, breezy, pastel-colored sudsers like Burn Notice, Covert Affairs, and Burn Notice. Fairy Legal fit right in with that roster of shows, starring Shahi as a young woman working with her father's widow — who's the same age as she is — at his old law firm. Sadly, like Life before it, Fairly Legal only lasted two short seasons before USA pulled the plug.
5. Person Of Interest
Shahi joined the CBS procedural on a recurring basis in its second season as emotionally troubled operate Sameen Shaw. She was promoted to series regular status for Season 3, but when the actress became pregnant, her character was seemingly killed off halfway through Season 4 — much to the shock of Shaw fans everywhere. But wait! It soon turned out that Shaw had survived her supposedly fatal gunshot wound… and now that Shahi is back from maternity leave, Shaw will likewise be returning to Person Of Interest for the upcoming fifth season.
That's the good news for POI fans; now, the bad news. TVLine, who broke the news of Shahi's Drew casting, made sure to clarify that "the actress’ deal puts Drew in first position ahead of a potential — yet extremely unlikely — sixth season of POI." So even if the show DID manage to defy ratings odds and return for another season, it would be minus Shaw… for good. For his part, producer J.J. Abrams doesn't think that's likely: "My guess is [Season 5] is the final season," TVLine quoted the Star Wars director as saying.
If all goes well with the Drew pilot, it should premiere on CBS sometime this coming fall.
Images: Screengrab/ABC; Screengrab/Showtime; Screengrab/NBC; JoJo Whilden/CBS